The past couple months we’ve been sowing our early-season crops, and now we’re fully into summer growing season! Here’s what to do now to keep your veggie garden growing and maximize your summer harvest:
- Add soil & compost. The soil may have eroded and settled since you first amended it in early spring, so if needed, gently work a bit more soil into your bed.
- Keep planting! Now is the time to plant your next round of crops. Sowing multiple rounds of plants is called Succession Planting, and it enables you to extend your harvest. Here’s what you can plant right now: herbs, beans, tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumbers, squash, zucchini and more. (Remember, we’re in Zone 7, so the timing of these plantings will vary if you live in a different region. Not sure what zone you live in? Find out here.)
- Build supports. Some plants are vining types (e.g., cucumber, melons), which work well in small spaces because you can grow them vertically. To support vining plants, build simple trellises – I recommend poles with wire or twine running along the fence, or free-standing teepees. To make a simple teepee trellis, take three long garden poles, lay them side by side, and lash them together by weaving a wire or string around the top. Then stand it up, separate the bottoms of the poles into a triangle, and voila, you made a trellis! Put this over your beans, and they’ll wind themselves right up the poles.
- Fertilize. Plants need nourishment just like we do, and I recommend using an organic fertilizer to support their continued growth throughout the season. I use Tomato Tone (a great organic fertilizer, which works well on all types of veggies — you can find this at any nursery or garden center). Follow the instructions on the label – generally applying a few tablespoons to the soil every couple weeks.
- Water. We’re entering the long, hot days of summer, and our veggies need more water than ever. Water deeply first thing in the morning, being sure to water the soil, not the plants! This will help prevent leaf-burn and the growth of fungus.
- Monitor. Spend time in your garden every day – even for just a few minutes. Get to know your plants, watch them grow, see how they change, and look for signs of insects, disease, and weeds. Remember to jot down notes in your garden journal, to help you remember what’s working and what isn’t.
- Harvest and enjoy! It’s the end of the season for our early crops (lettuce, spinach, broccoli, peas, etc.), so pick them now and enjoy the fresh, nutritious fruits of your labors! You can continue harvesting early season crops until they sprout flowers – this is a sign they’re preparing to produce seeds. Crops like cilantro, broccoli, and lettuce will bolt in the summer heat (i.e., grow tall shoots with a flower on top) – you can pinch off the flowers to extend the harvest, but eventually the heat will be too much for them. When this happens, take the plants out of the ground to make space for your next round of plantings.
Our lettuce is at its peak of ripeness (and nutritional goodness) in May.
You’re well on your way into our main growing season, so your garden will really take off over the next month. Enjoy the opportunity to be outside, get closer to nature, and appreciate the fruits of your labor!
Happy (urban) farming!